What Do Faculty Look for in an Undergraduate Researcher?

General faculty expectations

  • Commitment to learning - Successful undergraduate researchers demonstrate a genuine desire to expand their own knowledge. Your intellectual curiosity may be your most important asset.
  • Self-motivation - Successful undergraduate researchers demonstrate the ability to work independently. Your supervisor should not have to prompt you to show up for work or finish a project.
  • Communication skills - It is your responsibility to report progress and seek guidance when you need it. If you encounter a problem or make a mistake, discuss it with your faculty supervisor right away.
  • Time commitment - Some professors may require that you work regular hours each week or that you commit to multiple semesters of work. Be sure to discuss expectations about time and procedures for recording the hours you work.
  • Research ethics - Whether you are working with human subjects or dealing with original documents, it is crucial that you familiarize yourself with the ethical conventions in your field and relevant Institutional Review Board (IRB) procedures.
  • Coursework - Some professors may prefer to work with students who have completed a specific course or courses. If possible, interview other students who have worked with this professor
  • Course credit - Some professors may prefer that you pursue course credit for your research experience. If you register for independent study or research hours, you should inform yourself about the requirements.

From Aaron Monte's "Mentor Expectations and Student Responsibilities in Undergraduate Research," Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, December 2001.

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